As shocking images of a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump storming the U.S. Capitol circulated Wednesday, Black Lives Matter organizers and Black lawmakers were among many to quickly point to the contrast between law enforcement’s response to the mostly white rioters and what happened during racial justice protests last summer.
Black Lives Matter called it “hypocrisy.”
“When Black people protest for our lives, we are met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, tear gas and battle helmets,” BLM organizers tweeted on the movement’s national Twitter account. “When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene.”
“Make no mistake, if the protesters were Black, we would have been tear gassed, battered, and perhaps shot,” the account added.
Officers and rioters both deployed chemical irritants during the siege at the Capitol Wednesday.
The mob clashed with police, scaled walls and smashed through windows, breaching the Capitol as lawmakers evacuated and others barricaded inside. Some of the rioters were armed.
“I just can’t help but say, the difference between how these protesters were received, how unprepared the Capitol was, versus how they have responded when it’s a Black Lives Matter protest was just absolutely shocking,” Democratic California Rep. Karen Bass told KTLA.
Bass said she was outraged to see a social media video that appears to show a Capitol Police officer posing for a photo with a protester.
“Would you take a selfie with someone who was robbing a bank?” she asked. “I can’t imagine if a couple of thousand of (Black Lives Matters) protesters had descended on the Capitol … that there would be 13 people arrested.”
The president, who has previously dubbed anti-racism protesters “thugs,” posted a now-hidden video to Twitter, calling Wednesday’s mob who breached the Capitol “very special” while asking them to go home.
Many were quick to highlight the massive gulf in the president’s language in critical posts on social media.
“I am in disbelief. I can’t believe domestic terrorists are roaming around inside the Capitol,” newly elected Rep. Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, tweeted as the chaos unfolded. “I’m remembering being brutalized and treated like a domestic terrorist just for protesting to keep my people alive.”
D.C. police said Thursday that 68 people were arrested, while Capitol police said 14 were arrested, mostly for unlawful entry.
Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat and former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told USA Today officers were “unprepared, ineffective and some were complicit.”
“There is a double standard,” Fudge said, comparing Wednesday’s response to that at last year’s Black Lives Matter protests at the Capitol.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May pushed hundreds of thousands of Americans to protest police brutality against Black men and women across the country. The massive protests at times saw officers responding with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets, including in Los Angeles.
The Trump administration had officers clear racial justice protesters with flash bang grenades and tear gas, to facilitate a photo-op in front of a church near the White House in June.
President-elect Joe Biden called the mob that stormed the Capitol “domestic terrorists” and highlighted the disparity in the law enforcement response during a Thursday news conference.
“Not only do we see the failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a failure to carry out equal justice,” Biden said
Biden said he received a photo from his granddaughter during the chaos. It was of “scores” of military personnel lining the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because of a Black Lives Matter protest. He recalled her telling him “this isn’t fair.”
“It is unacceptable, totally unacceptable,” he said.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris echoed the president-elect’s sentiment.
“We witnessed two systems of justice when we saw one that led extremist storm the United States Capitol. And another that released tear gas on peaceful protesters last summer,” Harris said.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, meanwhile, defended his department’s response to the breach at the Capitol, saying officers “acted valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions.”
He said officers were met with metal pipes, chemical irritants and other weapons. More than 50 Capitol and D.C. police were injured, including several who were hospitalized, according to Sund.
The chief said officers were also simultaneously responding to reports of pipe bombs at two nearby locations as the violence unfolded.
Four people died, including a woman who was shot and killed by police inside the Capitol. Three other people died after “medical emergencies” related to the breach, said Robert Contee, chief of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department.
Lawmakers are vowing an investigation into how law enforcement handled the violent breach, questioning whether a lack of preparedness allowed a mob to occupy and vandalize the building.
“I was very worried about the protesters and told my family not to worry about me because I was going to be in the safest building in the country, in the Capitol,” Bass said. “It turns out I was in the most dangerous place to be.”